Johannesburg – The Health and Allied Workers Indaba Trade Union (HAITU) on Sunday said it “has noted with disgust” that the Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko has been granted an urgent interdict to stop student nurses’ protests.
Last week, student nurses embarked on protest action demanding to be placed under community service programmes.
Mpho Rantsu, spokesperson for the protesting students, said on Friday they “feel misled and let down” by the Gauteng Department of Health because they were told they would be placed in jobs on completion of the three-year course.
Rantsu said the department was now “singing a different tune, and no one is willing to hear us out”.
Disgruntled students have been protesting for the whole of last week.
At the weekend, the Gauteng Department of Health secured an interim court order to stop final-year nursing students from protesting at Gauteng college of nursing campuses.
The students were demanding an extension of the bursary stipend between June and November.
But the department insists it does not have the money to continue paying their stipend.
HAITU responds: “With the unemployment rate at a peak, why would the government waste funds to train professional nurses, only for them to contribute to the already high unemployment rate?
“Our nurses are overwhelmed due to staff shortages, and they need all the help they can get.”
Instead, HAITU complained that the MEC secured an urgent interdict at the High Court to stop students from the Gauteng College of Nurses from participating in protest action at the nursing college campuses.
“We say voetsek to the Gauteng MEC for abusing the courts, in order to run away from her responsibilities towards 171 students,” said HAITU.
“The anger of students is justifiable. The department abruptly informed student nurses that their contracts come to an end on the 31st of May.
“These are students who will be the first cohort and finalists of the R171 curriculum, and there are no plans in place to support these students until they sit for board exams in November.”
HAITU said it has been in talks with some department officials, and the union added that it has written emails to highlight this issue.
“We have also participated in marches and protests with the students with the hope that we can find a solution to this crisis which would benefit both parties,” said HAITU.
“It is clear that the MEC does not want to give us an audience and has now resorted to using her power and political influence to intimidate students through the courts.
“We believe the demands that students are making are reasonable. We do not believe the department is being truthful when they claim that to retain 167 students would cost R77 Million.”
HAITU said it “only needs” about R10 million for this group of student nurses, and this money should be able to carry them until they can sit for board exams and end up being registered practitioners like their bursary contract states.
The union said it would like to make it known to the Gauteng Department of Health that:
- The interdict will be challenged as it is not yet final
- We will be applying for a court interdict against the MEC of Health in Gauteng, Nomantu Nkomo Ralehoko, to demand that the department must support the R171 students until this situation has been resolved. This will then set a precedent that no student under R171 shall vacate any residence or college until the matter is resolved.
- HAITU will be applying for a Mega March on the 31st of May in support of the R171 students, who are being given a raw deal by the department.
“The students are advised to continue with peaceful protest action in all campuses until the legal march on 31 May 2023,” HAITU said.
“The college cannot continue to run as long as this issue is not resolved. We demand that stipends must continue until all students are able to sit for the board exams in November.
“Gauteng College of Nurses should not be allowed to continue business as usual, when it is not business as usual for the students.
“This is the next generation of nurses who will improve the quality of healthcare which we desperately need.”